Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Religious freedom and secularism

"We have always asserted that, in addition to many other factors, how a state and its people approach issues of �religious freedoms� demonstrates the level of democratic understanding in a country."

"Yesterday I received a lengthy letter from an �enraged reader� -- as he/she signed it -- criticizing a statement made by Interior Minister Abdulkadir Aksu about the number of �missionaries� and �illegal places of worship� in Turkey.

We believe religion is a private matter, one of personal choice of any individual to believe and worship -- or not -- as he/she chooses, in whatever fashion, following any religion that the individual finds most appropriate. It is none of our business to advise anyone to chose any religion or to be an atheist or deist."

"The reader -- the letter is being referred to not because an �enraged reader� signature was qualified enough to be considered but rather because the subject was a very sensitive one -- complains that �Putting one's religious choice on one's identity card before one can even put two thoughts together is just plain stupid. It degrades religion to merely an ancestral or governmental stamp. Just like an inoculation, a shot taken against some 'foreign' element. No one is born a Muslim, a Christian or a Buddhist ... everyone chooses to follow whichever religion seems true to them as one gets to the age that one can properly choose. Do you not know this? Obviously, you don't.�

Well, first of all, generalizations may lead people to make mistakes. Unfortunately, no infant in any part of the world enjoys the right to decide his/her religion. It's a universal practice to assume that the infant automatically acquires the religion of the father or the mother. It's not just the �religion� section of ID cards which emphasizes that paternal imposition, though we fully agree with the reader that the religion section on ID cards must be eliminated because it is divisive rather than uniting and is against the principle that religion is sacred between the creator and the created."
Turkish Daily News - Religious freedom and secularism

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